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Monday, November 16, 2009

Goodness to dip your soba in (Men Tsuyu recipe)

  I LOVE Japanese-type buckwheat noodles, especially zaru soba: fully cooked noodles served cold on a tray with dipping sauce, grated radish, and minced green onion.

The dipping sauce, soba tsuyu, is usually problematic for me as a vegetarian: somewhere within it is a dilute stock made with bonito (tuna) flakes. I get around this at home by serving saucy dishes with hot soba, but now I have a recipe for men tsuyu that I've modified to my tastes so I can eat the noodles zaru soba-style. It is based on a men tsuyu recipe from the Australian company Hakubaku: I've substituted sake where they call for white wine, increased the mushrooms, and decreased the sugar used.

-2 cups water
-3 large, fresh shiitake mushrooms, diced or minced
-1/2 cup soy sauce (I use tamari)
-1/2 cup sake
-1 tablespoon of (natural) sugar, such as evaporated cane juice
-1 tablespoon of ginger, minced or grated
-minced green onion, to taste.

Simmer the mushrooms in the water for five minutes; add everything other than the green onion and simmer for five minutes more. Add green onion when ready to serve. This makes about six half-cup servings of mushroom-flavored dipping sauce.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recipe: white bean and garlic soup

  As part of my recent fit of Italian menu fantasies, I craved a white bean soup. I didn't have a perfect recipe for one, though there is apparently a FABULOUS one in Vegan with a Vengeance that I will need to check out, which includes two complete heads of oven-roasted garlic. (Added bonus from reading about that soup at Vegan.Chicks.Rock ( the link to the distressing entry on jaeger bomb cupcakes (!?!?).) I am certain that soup rules.

I was impatient, and did not want to wait to roast two heads of garlic. So here is my own, ultra-simple version of white bean soup. VERY simple. You can really taste the beans. Which is a good thing.

-1.5 cups of dried white beans (I used navy)
-7 cloves of garlic, sliced
-1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
-lots and lots of fresh water.

Carefully pick over the beans, eliminating the gravel and any "bad" beans that the machines failed to notice, and put them in a pot with about 5 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, and simmer partly covered for about 45 minutes, checking the water level periodically to be sure the beans remain submerged as they expand during cooking. You can keep a kettle of hot water going to top them off.

At the 45 minute mark, add the garlic and oregano, and stir well. Return to a simmer. Check the water level every 15 minutes or so, keeping the beans submerged. At the hour and 15 minutes mark, start checking the beans for tenderness: if you want a partially blended soup with SOME whole beans, you will want to be able to smash them easily with a wooden spoon, but still allow them to hold their shape. It takes about 1.5 hours of simmering for navy beans to be soft enough for my tastes, but firm enough to retain their structural integrity.

When you are happy with the tenderness of the beans, puree half or more of the soup with a hand or beverage blender. Return to the pot and stir well. The pureed beans will make the soup significantly thicker: add water, if necessary, to achieve the thickness you want.

Serve with fresh bread and herb spreads.

(If you are organized, you can soak the beans in a bowl of warm water all day, while you are at work, to shorten the cooking time. If you do that, add the garlic and oregano earlier.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recipe: celery and onion soup

  Celery is something I often have trouble using up. I might crave it, but rarely for more than a stalk or two in one dish. What should happen to the rest?

-two tablespoons of canola or olive oil
-half of a large onion, diced
-two cloves of garlic, minced
-a teaspoon or so of fresh ginger root, minced
-three stalks of celery, diced
-1 teaspoon of turmeric
-1 tablespoon of your favorite vegetarian broth powder (optional)
-2 and a half cups of water
-a handful of wide, flat wheat or rice noodles.

Sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger in the oil for 2 - 3 minutes. Add the celery, and stir well. After another five minutes, add the spices. Stir well, then add water. Bring to a boil.

Add the noodles, and simmer until the noodles are tender (about 5 minutes for the type I use). Enjoy.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:50 PM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recipe: pumpkin and cheese enchiladas in chipotle tomato sauce

  You know I love enchiladas. I especially love THESE enchiladas. The pumpkin is sweet; the chipotle chilies are smoky... These are also a lovely color.

(I haven't yet perfected my marinated tofu enchilada filling, so these are made with cheese.)

Chipotle sauce ingredients:
-28 ounces of diced tomatoes (canned if in winter; if they are in season, fresh tomatoes, diced, lightly drained, and lightly de-seeded)
-5 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
-half of a large sweet onion (white, yellow, or violet)
-4 cloves of garlic.

Instructions: puree until smooth.

Other ingredients:

-2 cups of pumpkin, baked until tender
-2 cups of onion (white, yellow, or violet)
-5 cloves of garlic, minced
-2 teaspoons of ground cumin
-6 - 8 ounces of grated, organic, local, pepper jack cheese

-10 flour tortillas (lard-free)


Prepare the chipotle sauce as described above.

Sauté the onion, garlic, and cumin until the onions are tender. Mix in with the pumpkin, mashing it to a reasonably smooth texture.

Lay out the tortillas, and evenly divide the pumpkin and cheese between the tortillas, favoring one edge for ease of rolling. Roll the enchiladas-to-be up, and put them in a pan with half the sauce resting in the bottom. Cover with the remaining sauce when all are rolled.

Cover the pan with foil, and bake for 40 minutes.


posted by Arlene (Beth)11:05 PM

Monday, July 21, 2008


Light rice noodle soup

For when you want something tasty and warming, but light enough not to spoil your appetite for whatever you have planned next.

-a tablespoon or so of canola oil
-two large cloves of garlic, minced
-one small onion, quartered and sliced thinly
-about two teaspoons of fresh ginger root, minced
-water, four cups or so
-one flat of "rice stick" (about 1/4 of the average package), or your favorite rice noodle
-one to two cups of fresh spinach, washed thoroughly and chopped coarsely (you may swear while chopping if it puts you in the mood)
-1 tablespoon of delicious, powdered veggie broth (NOT that nasty cube stuff), or a teaspoon or so of your favorite curry powder
-1 teaspoon of turmeric
-one diced scallion (green onion)
-two teaspoons of soy sauce, or to taste.

Sauté the garlic, onion, and ginger root in hot oil for five minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the water, and bring it to a boil. Add the powdered broth and rice stick (which usually cooks in two minutes) or your favorite rice noodle (which you should boil until it is thoroughly cooked). Reduce heat so that the soup simmers.

When the noodles are just about done, add the remaining ingredients. Let them simmer for about a minute. Stir well and serve.

This is a nice, light, foggy weather soup, good for tiding you over when you're on your way to a party in a foggy place where you know dinner will not be served on time. You'll be able to eat soon after, but you won't be famished, and you will have a mild inner warmth. Not that this ever happens to me.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:16 PM

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Polenta with pesto and black olives.

Every time I eat polenta, I am stunned that it is not a constant part of my diet. Corn is such a satisfying veggie, and treated as if it were a dried grain like this, it is even more satisfying than cornbread. It is so versatile: it can be eaten soft shortly after cooking, cut into wedges once it has solidified, the slices can be baked in any range of delicious sauces, it can be deep fried to a golden-brown level of goodness... And it's less work to prepare than is commonly believed.


-five cups of water with 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth powder OR 5 cups of your favorite vegetable broth
-one cup of polenta (a coarse corn meal: you can buy polenta-specific corn meal, or ordinary meal, though the texture isn't the same)
-1/3 of a cup of fresh, pesto sauce (preferably vegan! My version: 2 cups fresh basil leaves, 1.5 cups fresh parsley, 6 cloves garlic, and enough olive oil to blend into a smooth paste. Put unused portions in a jar with limited surface area and cover with olive oil, so it won't oxidize so quickly.)
-6 ounces of black olives (either the ordinary kind or kalamanta), pitted and halved
-several tablespoons of olive oil.

Instructions: bring the water or broth to a rolling boil. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream while whisking. When it returns to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and whisk constantly and gently for about 10 minutes OR until you can leave patterns on the surface that persist (lumps that hold their shape).

Remove the polenta from heat. Add the pesto sauce, halved olives, and olive oil; whisk or stir thoroughly. Pour the polenta into a pie pan, preferably one lined with baking parchment. (Use a spatula to get it all out of the pan, and be sure to wash the pan before the grains set: it can be tough once it dries on.)

Allow the polenta to set until solid, about 1 hour.

Eat and enjoy.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Polenta with sun-dried tomatoes (recipe)

Sun-dried tomatoes have fabulous, intense, sweet flavor. Using both the sun-dried tomatoes and the olive oil they are packed in adds very intense tomato-goodness to polenta.


-five cups of water with 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth powder OR 5 cups of your favorite vegetable broth
-one cup of polenta (a coarse corn meal: you can buy polenta-specific corn meal, or ordinary meal, though the texture isn't the same)
-four ounces (114 grams) of olive-oil packed sun-dried tomatoes (minced or shredded) and accompanying olive oil.

Instructions: bring the water to a rolling boil. Pour in the polenta in a steady stream while whisking. When it returns to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and whisk constantly and gently for about 10 minutes OR until you can leave patterns on the surface that persist (lumps that hold their shape).

Remove the polenta from heat. Add the minced or shredded sun-dried tomatoes and their olive oil; whisk thoroughly. Pour the polenta into a pie pan, preferably one lined with baking parchment. (Use a spatula to get it all out of the pan, and be sure to wash the pan before the grains set: it can be tough once it dries on.)

Allow the polenta to set until solid, about 1 hour.

You can eat this many ways: I recommend heating it in the microwave either as it is or smothered in your favorite tomato sauce. You can also cover it in fresh diced tomatoes; fresh diced tomatoes with shredded basil and garlic; and/or your choice of cheeses, such as provolone. Black olives also work well on top of this. If you add a very wet sauce (with or without cheese and olives on top), you can bake the polenta in the oven for about 45 minutes at 450 degrees, and it will absorb some of the sauce's flavor.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:24 PM

Monday, May 26, 2008


Lasagna of spinach, feta, and Kalamanta olives (recipe)

This is a simpler variation of my Mediterranean lasagna, with a significantly shorter ingredient list. This is one of those rare, dairy-containing recipes: I haven't been very enthusiastic about dairy products in a while, but still have a special fondness for a type of goat cheese that is sold in my local market, which sinks in a big tub of salted water.

-a dozen lasagna noodles (enough to make three layers of pasta in your pan)
-720 g/25 ounces of the tomato sauce of your choice (plain is good for this)
-2 bunches of spinach, washed thoroughly, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
-one large onion, diced
-a pound of fresh tofu, soft or firm (but not silken)
-3 cloves of garlic
-1/4 cup of olive oil
-2 teaspoons oregano
-3/4 cup of Kalamanta olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
-2 cups of fresh feta, rinsed if salty, and coarsely chopped/crumbled.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cook the lasagna noodles according to the maker's instructions, which usually means 3 minutes for fresh noodles or 9 - 12 minutes for dried. Drain, rinse in cold water, and toss with a little olive oil to keep these from sticking.

Sauté the onions in a few tablespoons of olive oil; when they are soft, add the spinach. Turn the heat to low, and stir frequently. Cover for a few minutes to allow the spinach to wilt. Remove from heat.

In a food processor, blend the tofu, garlic, olive oil, and oregano until it has the texture of a spiced ricotta. This should take less than a minute. Put this tofu mixture into a large bowl. Add the sauté, the chopped olives, and the crumbled feta. Mix well. This is the filling.

Layer in a lasagna pan/casserole as follows:
-just under half of the tomato sauce
-1/3 of the pasta
-half of filling
-1/3 of the pasta
-the other half of the filling
-the last 1/3 of the pasta
-the remainder of the sauce.

Cover with tin foil, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour.


posted by Arlene (Beth)5:25 PM

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Recipes with purchased sauces: Tofu with Spinach and Onions in Thai Peanut Sauce.

photo of stir-fry with peanut sauce
I've never been a huge fan of peanuts, but every so often I crave kung pao tofu or param pak with peanut sauce. So finally, I bought a jar of a vegan & Thai version of peanut sauce that contains coconut milk, galangal, and other tasty ingredients. They recommend it more as a dipping sauce than for sautés, but it works well. I like the thick paste versions better than the versions that are more liquid and vinegar-y. (I know how to make peanut sauce from scratch, or I used to. If I can find one of the old recipes, I'll test it out again, refine it, and post it.)

-a pound of tofu, cubed
-three cups of fresh spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
-one onion, halved and sliced into half-rings
-four tablespoons of the Thai peanut sauce of your choice
-cooked rice.

Heat a little canola or peanut oil in a wok, and add the sliced onion when it's hot. Sauté the onion over medium-high heat for two or three minutes before adding the tofu. Mix well, lower the heat, and cover for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spinach and peanut sauce, and mix well. When the dish smells too good to wait any longer (about 12 minutes of total cooking time), serve over hot rice.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:54 PM


Recipe: Polenta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Feta

Polenta is an amazing dish: it's just boiled cornmeal that's been allowed to cool and firm up in whatever shape container you've put it in. It is remarkably versatile. You can deep fry polenta slices, bake polenta with any of your favorite pasta sauces, mix herbs and spices into it, top it like a pizza... It's simple, tasty, healthy, and filling.

The basic recipe I use is for "polenta squares" from Vegetarian Times, which I see is posted on the web at LookSmart as Vegetarian menus that work when you do, Vegetarian Times, April, 1997 by Mary C. Rogers ( It's one of the simplest and fastest polenta recipes around, destroying the myth about having to spend hours over a molten pot of cornmeal. You can also buy premade polenta very inexpensively at health food stores. There's a brand I like that is moist and comes with sun-dried tomatoes in it - it is quite nice.

Using either homemade or purchased polenta, you can easily make this delicious dish.

-1 small pan of prepared polenta, about one half inch thick, or sliced into half inch thick slices (from the recipe link above or from a package)
-1 cup of marinara sauce
-2 - 3 cups of ripe heirloom tomatoes, diced
-4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
-8 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled finely
-1/2 cup or so of fresh basil leaves, shredded.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a glass casserole dish or pie pan, spread the marinara sauce so it covers the entire bottom of the pan. Arrange the polenta slices densely over the sauce. Cover the polenta evenly with the remaining ingredients.

Bake for about an hour, uncovered. The sauce below and above the polenta will be boiling hot and the cheese will melt. The polenta itself is quite dense, and so the time in the oven is necessary for it to be heated completely through. If you become overwhelmed by the good smells coming from the oven before the hour is up, so long as the tomatoes have made a lovely sauce and cooked down a bit, you can try microwaving the dish to complete cooking (though that won't give the garlic as much time to mellow.)

Variation: replace some or all of the fresh basil with fresh, shredded oregano. Oregano and feta work very well together.

This is great with a small green salad and a simple wine.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)5:15 PM

Wednesday, August 08, 2007



I love checking out cookbooks from the library and learning new ways to eat things I already like. One of the recipes I found was for pancotto, an Italian soup that uses stale bread as dumplings of sorts in a tomato and garlic broth. It's a nice vegan soup, and there are many variations on the web that involve up to half a dozen vegetables. I've made the simplest version several times. I was going to post a link to the closest version I could find, but none of them are as simple as the version I use, so I'll give you my approach from memory. The basic recipe for the soup is:

-4 cups of water or veggie broth
-a few cloves of garlic, minced
-an onion, diced
-crushed red pepper, to taste (maybe half a teaspoon?)
-2 pounds or so of ripe tomatoes, diced
-a small handful each of of basil and parsley, shredded
-four slices or so of good, stale bread.

All you need to do is sauté the onions and garlic for a few minutes, add the broth, bring it to a boil, and simmer it with the tomatoes and bread for 15 - 20 minutes until the bread has absorbed most of the soup. Then you can mix in the fresh herbs, let them simmer for a moment or two, and serve. It's simple, warm, and is a great way to use up overripe tomatoes and bread that has gone hard.

I recall that the original version of the recipe required that the tomatoes be blanched, peeled, and deseeded, but tomatoes here in California are pretty thin-skinned, and the seeds aren't much of a problem. But if it would bother you, take those out.

There are many variations of this recipe on the web involving green beans, zucchini, potatoes, and other combinations of vegetables and herbs. There are two nice vegetarian variations of bread soup at the site of Uncle Phaedrus, Finder of Lost Recipes (, along with one meat variation, and tips for customizing the recipes according to whatever is fresh and in season. Which is really more important than the specifics of any recipe, since the freshness of the ingredients is what makes simple foods so satisfying.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

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